In anticipation of a nursing home strike starting on May 14, Gov. Ned Lamont called on the National Guard to ensure the safety of nursing home residents.
In a letter to Major General Francis J. Evon Jr., the adjutant general of the Connecticut military department, Lamont asked the military to support the Department of Public Health in “protecting the public health and safety in response to any potential work stoppage of strike of workers at long-term care facilities.”
Nursing home workers who say they risked their lives to go to work last year during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic are getting ready to strike at 33 nursing homes across the state. They plan to strike May 14 if they can’t reach an agreement with the state.
The request for the National Guard comes after a weekend of unsuccessful negotiations between SEIU District 1199 of New England, the union representing thousands of health care workers and nursing home owners.
Lawmakers and Lamont are negotiating a bump in pay for nursing home workers as part of the state budget. They are hoping to avoid a strike.
“A strike costs the state about $2 million a day,” House Speaker Matt Ritter has said.
On Monday, Lamont offered the nursing homes and the workers nearly $300 million over the next two years.
Lamont’s budget director Melissa McCaw wrote SEIU 1199 and the nursing home association to tell them that the state expects to include nearly $300 million in stabilization funds, wage enhancements, hazard pay, and retirement contributions.
“This is an unprecedented amount of financial support in a two-year period never seen in Connecticut’s history,” McCaw and Acting Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford wrote.
“With this funding, nursing homes will be required to provide wage supports including increasing employee wages,” the letter said. The $149.5 million in the biennial budget represents a 4.5% increase in wages for nursing home employees, the letter said.
The state is also offering a temporary 10% Medicaid increase for homes that meet certain criteria, a one-time $19.5 million pension enhancement, $12 million or hazard pay in fiscal year 2022, money for workforce development and access to the Care4Kids state child care program for nursing home workers in a family of three that make under $60,810.
The administration is hoping to avoid a strike.
The union is seeking more state funding through Medicaid increases and other means so that nursing home owners can provide better wages, better health care and better protections for workers who have struggled with short staffing, inadequate pay and a lack of personal protective gear throughout the pandemic.